FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Two of the most important women in the life of missing Fort Lauderdale multi-millionaire Guma Aguiar will meet in Broward County court Thursday to fight for control of his $100 million fortune.
Aguiar, 35, of Fort Lauderdale, is believed to have left the dock of his Rio Vista Isles home in his fishing boat an hour or so before sunset on June 19, when the National Weather Service had issued a small craft advisory for high waves, fast winds and sporadic thunderstorms.
About six hours later, his 31-foot, center-console vessel was found unmanned on Fort Lauderdale beach, its lights on and twin outboard engines running.
Before the U.S. Coast Guard had ended its 48-hour search the night of June 21, his mother, Ellen Aguiar filed a court document earlier that day, seeking to have herself named conservator of her son's substantial assets.
"It's not a power grab," Ellen Aguiar, 59, of Pompano Beach and Jerusalem, said Wednesday from her lawyer's office in Miami.
She said she made the filing based on legal advice, and said there are substantial assets to protect for his family as well as bills, salaries and business operations to fund. Investments include Israeli real estate and majority ownership of a pro basketball team there, a Fort Lauderdale mansion and a fleet of automobiles.
Also looming are legal deadlines in a 2008 lawsuit over distribution of proceeds from the 2007 sale of an oil and gas company co-founded with his maternal uncle, Thomas Kaplan.
The mother's filing was "wholly premature," Guma Aguiar's wife Jamie Aguiar says in her petition filed June 22, in which she seeks to control her husband's affairs.
She also alleges her mother-in-law "convinced police investigators to hand over critical pieces of evidence," including her husband's wallet and cellphone.
It goes on to say Ellen Aguiar made a few calls from her missing son's phone and "possibly deleted critical voice and/or text messages" from the evidence.
"We're looking into why it was turned over [to her]," Fort Lauderdale Police Detective Travis Mandell said Wednesday. "The mother showed up on the scene and the phone was initially turned over to her by patrol officers for safekeeping."
Ellen Aguiar denies altering the phone.
"That's absurd," Aguiar said. "It was handed to us, and it had a password and I had no idea what it is."
She said she and her fiance, David Even, stopped at her son's home but did not see Jamie Aguiar before heading to a lawyer's office in Miami.
"Our lawyer gave it back to the police," she said.
Fort Lauderdale police detectives are studying the boat's GPS for clues on where Aguiar may have gone, and Mandell said the Coast Guard is analyzing the phone.
"They should be able to determine if any messages were tampered with or if anything was erased," Mandell said.
Jamie Aguiar's filing also claims she and her husband have supported his mother and her fiance by providing them a residence and other benefits.
Ellen Aguiar said her son purchased her a home as an investment in Jerusalem, where she worked "for no salary" for some of his entities, but that she owns her house in Pompano Beach.
"I'm not a dependent of my son," she said, adding that she supports herself with life insurance and investments.
On June 25, Ellen Aguiar revised her petition, asking that Northern Trust Bank be named conservator.
"My main goal is to do what's right," Ellen Aguiar said.